Native Species – Concept, endemic species and examples

We explain what is a native species, what is an endemic species and an exotic species. Also, some examples of native species.

Red-eyed frog - native species
The total of native species make up the native fauna and flora of each region.

What is a native species?

It is said of an animal, plant or other species that is a native species when it originates from a specific geographic site, that is, that it is a native of that region without human intervention of any kind. This applies even if it has subsequently spread to other regions of the map (where it will instead become an introduced or exotic species). They are also known as indigenous species or autochthonous species, but should not be confused with endemic species.

All non-domesticated living beings come from some place, in which their species originated, and in that place they are considered native. On the other hand, domesticated animals have already become accustomed to living in contexts intervened by humans, and this implies moving to other latitudes, which, perhaps, they would never have arrived naturally.

Native species usually possess evolutionary traits determined by their original environment of appearanceBut over time, in those cases where the environment changes dramatically long enough, changes may begin to occur, given the new dynamics of natural selection and adaptation to their new environments.

On the other hand, the total of native species make up the native fauna and flora of each region, and they are usually perfectly adapted to each other, since they have been part of the same ecosystem for a long time. This causes that the destruction of native species or their replacement by other invasive ones generate unpredictable consequences in the environment, and can cause loss of biodiversity, degradation of the ecosystem and even extinctions.

Endemic species

endemic species - Galapagos Iguana
Endemic species are never found as alien or invasive species.

A native species should not be confused with an endemic species, although all endemic species are native. That is to say: all species are native to some place, from which they come and where they are perfectly integrated into the ecosystem; but endemic species are also native species that cannot be found anywhere else on the planetIn other words, they are never found as exotic or invasive species, which makes them a much more fragile ecological case.

For example, the Galapagos marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), in Ecuador, are endemic (and therefore native) to these islands. On the other hand, the common iguana (Iguana iguana) is native to Central and South America, but can be found in Florida, USA, where it was feral by humans.

Follow in: Endemic species

Exotic species

Exotic species - wheat
An exotic species is generally introduced by humans.

Exotic species are just the opposite of native ones, that is, they are those species that they are in a geography or context outside their place of origin, where they constitute a foreign element of the ecosystem.

An exotic species it is generally introduced by humans, or its habitat changes due to the consequences of its life (such as logging, pollution, etc.), and depending on its behavior in the new ecosystem, it can integrate and cohabit or it can spread and replace other local species , monopolizing biological niches and causing damage to biodiversity. In the latter case, we speak of invasive species, and sometimes they can become pests, also causing damage to humanity (such as the destruction of crops or the transmission of diseases). For this reason, there is a strict control in the world of the species, seeds and biological products that can be carried from one country to another.

Examples of native species

Native species - American crayfish
The American crayfish is native to the Southeastern United States.

Some cases of native species are:

  • The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). Native as its name implies from South America (Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay and southern Brazil), but artificially introduced in almost all continents except Antarctica.
  • The red-eyed frog (Agalychnis callydas). Native to tropical American forests, especially from southern Mexico to northwestern Colombia.
  • The American crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Native to the southeastern United States, but introduced by the aquaculture culture in some Asian and European countries where it became an invasive species.
  • The paradise crane (Grus paradisea). A species of wading bird native to and endemic to South Africa.
  • The Moteczuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum). It is a species of tree native to Mexico and Guatemala, but it can be found as an exotic species in the United States (in Texas and New Mexico).